DES MOINES, Iowa – The second day of government oversight hearings into favoritism and glitches within Iowa Workforce Development began with a stark comparison to Tuesday’s testimony.
On Tuesday, administrative law judges at IWD described an unfair and often hostile work environment. Wednesday morning, a clerk said office morale improved under director Teresa Wahlert.
Joni Benson told the Senate Oversight Committee that she felt no pressure to assign certain cases to specific judges. Benson also denied any knowledge of favoritism in the office. Yet she acknowledged that some Judges were assigned 30 cases a week while others would work on less than half as many or none at all.
State lawmakers are also questioning the system error that led to over-payments of at least 85 unemployed Iowans. IWD officials estimate that the computer glitch resulted in $27,000.
By the time Wahlert gave her sworn testimony before the five person panel Wednesday afternoon, the claims of a dysfunctional department had stacked up.
Current and former Administrative Law Judges and fraud investigators with IWD described a work environment that included favoritism, a lack of judicial independence, and then feeling threatened to cover up a computer glitch that resulted in the overpayment of unemployment benefits.
Wahlert told the panel, “I don’t believe there was an effort to conceal or hide any of the glitch, the whole department who interfaced with the public knew what happened.”